My Story, Nutrition, Uncategorized

My Story: Gaining Confidence in the Kitchen

By Kait

I never used to cook at home. In fact I HATED cooking. I had no confidence in the kitchen and burned everything, even toast. Time was another reason I didn’t cook often. I always thought cooking a meal had to take a ton of time; I really just wanted my food to appear in front of me. At the same time, I wanted to eat healthier but had no idea where to start or what to do with things like vegetables and spices. Then a coworker mentioned she had signed up for Plated [a subscription meal service] and suggested I give it a try. It sounded like an interesting concept, so I went for it.

What I like most is that it saves time and effort. Everything you need to make the dish is included and portioned out for you. Some recipes use ingredients I never would have bought on my own because I didn’t know how to use them, so it’s a great way to try new things. I also discovered that cooking doesn’t take up as much time as I thought. We typically cook at home 3-4 times a week (usually dinner). We’re definitely eating as a family more often, and I enjoy getting to spend time with loved ones while preparing meals.

We’ve been using Plated for about a year now and I feel much better about my cooking skills. I know if I made a recipe once I can do it again. You get to keep the recipe cards, so we’ll usually do a little experimenting the next time we make the dish. I’m eating healthier now, too. Before, I never really ate vegetables (or if I did they were just raw). I’d go into the grocery store and see all these wonderful looking vegetables but feel intimidated not knowing what to do with them. Now that I have a better idea how to cook them, I include vegetables with my meals often.

I recommend signing up for something like Plated if you don’t have much confidence with cooking. The recipes are easy and they tell you about how much time it takes to make. You’ll learn how to cook new things and different types of vegetables. My parents actually signed up for another meal delivery service, Blue Apron, because of my experience with Plated.

 

 

Nutrition, recipes

Be Fit Basics: Sesame-Miso Cucumber Salad

A quick and easy side dish to bring to this weekend’s cookout.  Miso is typically found in the refrigerated food section, often either by the dairy or chilled salad dressings.

Ingredients:
1½ tbsp sesame seeds, roasted
2 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
4 cups thinly sliced cucumber

Directions: 
Combine the first 6 ingredients and whisk in 1 tbsp hot water.  Add cucumber and toss to coat.

Yield: 5 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 100 • Protein: 2 g • Sodium: 260 mg • Carbohydrate: 13 g • Fiber: 2 g
Fat: 5 g • Sat Fat: 1 g

Recipe adapted from Cookinglight.com. Originally posted on mghbefit.com.
Nutrition, recipes

Beans, beans, the magical fruit…

By Kelsey Baumgarten
Dietetic Intern

What comes to mind when you hear the word “beans?” Maybe you think of chili, baked beans, minestrone soup, gallo pinto, burritos. Whatever you think about beans, you may not know how they are related to your health and blood sugar control.

While the old rhyme calls beans a magical “fruit,” they are, in fact, a vegetable! They’re part of a larger group of vegetables called legumes, which includes foods like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas. When counting carbohydrates, legumes should be counted as a starchy vegetable. However, if you can think of the rhyme, it may help you remember that a ⅓-cup serving of beans has a similar number of carbohydrates as a piece of fruit.

The more you eat, the more you toot…

Many people avoid beans because of their reputation for causing gastrointestinal discomfort. The gas related to eating beans is caused by the fiber and starches your body can’t break down. These are digested by the bacteria in your intestines.

The more you toot, the better you feel…

The fiber is part of what makes beans so good for you! Fiber can help lower your cholesterol and prevent constipation. Over time, your body will get used to it and you will notice less discomfort.

So let’s have beans at every meal!

You don’t need to have beans at every meal like the song suggests, but beans do make a great choice for balanced meals and snacks. Try swapping beans for some of your usual servings of pasta, potato, squash, and bread. You can even replace half of your starch with a half serving of legumes:

  • Eat a smaller portion of pasta, and add beans into the pasta sauce.
  • Mash black beans into a half serving of mashed potatoes.
  • Sprinkle beans on top of a thin-crust pizza
  • Add roasted chickpeas to your salad instead of croutons (just toss dry chickpeas in olive oil and salt, and broil until crispy— about 10 minutes)

Snacking on beans (15-30 g carbs)

  • 2 tablespoons of hummus or edamame dip + 6 whole grain crackers
  • ½ cup of lentil soup
  • ½ cup kidney beans, sprinkled with olive oil and Italian seasoning
  • ⅓ cup soy nuts + 1 piece fresh fruit

Don’t forget:
While legumes are a great source of plant protein, their carbohydrates will still raise your blood sugar. Legumes generally supply 15-20 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Be sure to check the nutrition label of whichever kind you are eating.

Beans can be a great addition to your diet. For increased fiber intake and heart-health benefits, aim to eat 3 or more servings every week. With so many nutrients per serving, they really are a “magical fruit”!

Did you know? You can use beans to make healthier baked goods and desserts!

Cannellini Carrot Muffins

  • BeanCarrotMuffin1 can* cannellini or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups grated carrots
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup oats
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

In a food processor, puree beans, eggs, oil, molasses, salt, and cinnamon until very smooth. Add carrots and nuts and blend on low speed until nuts and carrots are in small chunks. In a separate bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, and baking powder. Add the bean mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the muffin tins and bake for 35-40 minutes.

*You can also use beans cooked from dry. 1 can = 1½ cups cooked beans.

Per muffin: 190 calories • 40g carb • 5g protein • 4g fiber • 7g fat

Black bean Chocolate Hummus
(who knew hummus could taste like dessert?)

BeanChocolateHummus
  • 1 can* black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp decaf coffee (or water)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serves 8.

For a snack with 30g carbs, spread hummus over 2 graham cracker squares (1 full sheet), or use as dip for 1 serving of apple slices or strawberries.

Per serving (about 2 tbsp): 150 calories • 20g carb • 5g protein • 5g fiber • 7g fat

*You can also use beans cooked from dry. 1 can = 1½ cups cooked beans.

 (Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)
Nutrition

Fresh, Local Produce is in Season

By Michelle Leonetti
Dietetic Intern

Summer is the time for fresh vegetables and herbs! The northeast has a large variety of produce that comes alive in the summer months. Eating local vegetables in season ensures a fresher, more nutritious product and lowers the environmental impact. Check out local farmers markets, roadside farm stands or even join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group!

Learn more about 6 of our favorite summer veggies!

Basil

Basil is a green leafy herb with a sweet and spicy flavor. This versatile herb can be used to add a kick to anything from tomato sauce to sandwiches and can be dried as a seasoning for meat and vegetables. It is especially high in vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.

        Serving Suggestion – Pesto

basil montage

  • Basil is most commonly used as the main ingredient in pesto sauce. Combine basil with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts for a savory sauce. Basil in short supply? Use half spinach to add bulk, while maintaining the color and flavor. Many kinds of nuts like walnuts and almonds can be substituted for the pine nuts. Add roasted red peppers for a twist on a classic pesto!

        Serving Suggestion – Caprese Salad

  • For light refreshing summer snack combine tomato, basil and mozzarella and finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar!

Summer Squash/Zucchini

Summer squash comes in two varieties: yellow and green. The green variety is also known as zucchini. Summer squash is lighter than winter squashes like pumpkins and butternut squash.

Serving Suggestion – Zucchini “Noodles”

  • Use a vegetable peeler, spiral slicer or a mandolin to cut the squash into thin strips for a lighter, more nutritious spin on pasta. Add any sauce or seasoning that you would add to regular pasta. We recommend the pesto sauce above!

Beets

Beets are a great way to bring color into your diet. These bright red root vegetables can be eaten in a variety of ways including shredded, roasted, boiled, juiced or even pickled! You can also add the greens to a vegetable stir-fry to reduce waste and get the most out of your produce. Beets are especially high in folate and magnesium as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals.

Serving Suggestion – Roasted Beets

  • Roast in the oven with olive oil and spices; slice and top with goat cheese and walnuts for a warm melty treat.

Eggplant

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that can be used in many types of cooking because the spongy texture quickly absorbs the flavor of what it’s prepared with. Though mostly known for its deep purple color, some varieties come in indigo or even white. “Graffiti” eggplant is somewhere in-between!

 Serving Suggestion – Grilled Eggplant

  • Slice thinly, marinate with a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasonings and throw on the grill along with your burgers and hot dogs for a tasty and healthy addition to your BBQ!

Sweet Corn

Corn is a staple in many households and is a summer classic. Corn is native to North America and has evolved significantly in the past few centuries to become the crop we know today. Although sweet corn is the most common corn sold in supermarkets, it comes in several different varieties. Each has special properties and uses. Some are colorful or have tougher textures. Some are as animal feed while others are better for popping!

Serving Suggestion – Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

  • After grilling corn brush a mixture of butter, lime juice and adobo sauce onto the cob. Adding lime juice to corn is an ancient practice known as “nixtamalization.” The chemistry of the lime juice releases essential B vitamins increasing flavor, aroma and the nutritional content of the corn.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is generally known as the less popular relative of broccoli, but it’s been gaining attention in recent years as more people discover the versatility of the vegetable. Cauliflower can be eaten raw or roasted and can even be blended and used as a dairy substitute in creamy sauces.

Serving Suggestion – Baked Cauliflower

  • For a fun and healthy appetizer, core the cauliflower leaving the head intact and coat with olive oil and the spices of your choice bake until tender.
Content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services
Nutrition

Three Reasons to Cook More Meals at Home

Research shows that cooking more meals at home encourages healthy eating, but many people feel they don’t have time to cook dinner during the week. If time (or lack of it) is what’s holding you back, here are a couple of time-saving tips for getting a jump-start on your meal. Dedicate some time during the weekend to plan your menu and chop all the veggies you will need for the coming week. If you need to pull a meal together quickly, frozen veggies are a good choice since all the chopping and peeling has been done for you.

Cleaning up after the meal can sometimes be just as time-consuming as the prep work. Save time on the dishes by making meals that can be cooked in one pot or skillet. For example: stir-fry strips of chicken breast or other lean protein with seasonal veggies with a little olive oil in a large skillet for a quick and easy summer meal. A Croc-Pot® or other slow cooker is another great tool for making a variety of easy, one-pot meals.

Okay, now that we have a game plan, here are a few good reasons for making a habit out of cooking more at home:

  • Healthy Options: Many restaurant meals are high in calories, sodium, and fat. Not to mention the portions served are often larger than the recommended serving size. Cooking at home means you have control over what goes on your plate and can easily substitute in healthy ingredients (and even experiment with different flavors). Using measuring cups/spoons and kitchen scales can also help you keep an eye on portion size.
  • Save Money: Eating out several times a week can be expensive! Making more meals at home will save money in the long term. In many cases, leftovers from dinner can be easily reheated for lunch the next day. During the winter, you can easily make an extra batch of soup or chili and freeze in serving-size portions. Defrost later for an easy workday lunch or weeknight dinner.
  • Involve the Whole Family: Sharing a meal is a favorite way to bond with loved ones. Think of cooking at home as another opportunity for spending time with friends and family by making meal prep a group activity. This way one person isn’t expected to cook the whole dinner for everyone. Plus, involving kids in the kitchen has been known to help with develop healthy eating habits later in life.

If you’re new to cooking at home, start small. Try making just one meal a week at first. As you practice skills in the kitchen, you’ll develop confidence to cook more often. Bon appétit!

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)

Nutrition, recipes

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Tomorrow’s the big game!  Need an appetizer to serve at your viewing party?  How about this BeFit spinach artichoke dip with an assortment of your favorite veggies.

Ingredients:

1½ cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated (divided)
½ cup 2% Greek yogurt
1 cup red pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-14oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1½ blocks 1/3 less fat cream cheese (12oz), softened
1-10oz package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
¼ tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, yogurt, red pepper, garlic, artichokes, cream cheese, spinach and black pepper in large mixing bowl and stir well until combined. Place mixture into a baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown.

Serve warm with your favorite raw veggies; carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower and celery make great dippers.

Yield: About 4½ cups (or about 18 servings)

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING (¼ cup vegetables not included):
CALORIES: 165 • PROTEIN: 16 g • SODIUM: 260 mg • CARBOHYDRATE: 7 g • FIBER: 1 g • FAT: 9 g • Sat Fat: 3.5 g

(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Guest Post

A Home Gardening Experiment: Moving Day!

By Chrisanne Sikora
Social Media Coordinator

Tomato seedlings

It’s been several weeks since I planted my tomato seeds and they’re now ready to be moved out into the back yard (probably a bit overdue as they’re overgrowing their greenhouse).  Actually, I’m happy with how many seedlings I have.  For a while it was looking like one of the trays wasn’t going to make it at all; there were a couple of sprouts soon after planting, but they died quickly from not getting enough water (oops).  A more concentrated effort at regular watering (and maybe a little help from Miracle-Gro®) and both trays were flourishing. 

Prepping the garden

The spot chosen for my vegetable garden is just underneath the back deck, next to a feisty old rose bush.  I prepped the area for planting the weekend before:  defining where the lawn ends and the garden begins, ripping out as much of the grass and weeds as possible, and turning over the top layer of soil with a pitchfork.  From there, it was just a matter of gently removing the seedlings from the greenhouse trays, separating them out (they were getting all tangled up) and planting them in the ground. 

Planting a tomato seedling

Once all the seedlings had been transplanted, I set up tomato cages over them so they’ll have something to support them as they get bigger.  Since they’re so small right now, I secured them to the cages with twist ties to keep them stable—just until they can “stand up” on their own.  I’ll probably spread some mulch in the garden to help protect the roots and prevent some of those weeds from coming back (and so it’ll look nicer, too). Setting up the tomato cages

So my home gardening experiment is in full swing.  Can’t wait to start seeing some tomatoes!  If you have any great gardening tips, leave me a comment below.